Raleigh’s Lonnie Poole Golf Course is the site of an NCAA golf regional next week, and Davidson and the Charlotte 49ers are well represented.
Davidson, which won the Atlantic 10 championship in April, will send its team to the regional. The 49ers’ Conor Purcell, a first-team All-Conference USA selection, will play as an individual.
The Wildcats are the 13th seed in the regional that lasts from Monday through Wednesday on N.C. State’s home course. Charlotte’s Purcell is one of five individual golfers who will play. The top five teams will advance to the NCAA finals May 24-30 in Stillwater, Okla., as well as the top individual finisher not on one of those qualifying teams.
Here are five things to know about the Wildcats and Charlotte’s Purcell in the NCAA golf regional:
Winning the A-10
Davidson isn’t a traditional golf power and the Atlantic 10 title was a long-time coming. The Wildcats last won a league championship in golf 50 years ago - in 1968 in the Southern Conference. The Wildcats’ golf championship is the third Atlantic 10 team title Davidson has won over the past 12 months (the baseball team won the league tournament in 2017 and advanced to an NCAA super-regional; the basketball team also won the conference tournament in March).
This season’s golf success in the league can only help coach Tim Straub’s recruiting, as will the Davidson Golf House, a 3,000-square-foot practice/locker room facility that opened in 2015 at River Run Country Club, the Wildcats’ home course. The golf house features three indoor bays that open up to a practice range and lots of computer-aided coaching tools.
Coach of the year
Straub, the Atlantic 10’s coach of the year, is in his 18th season at Davidson. He has a formidable golf background, attending Wake Forest after winning the 1983 US. Junior Amateur. He went to Wake Forest on the prestigious Arnold Palmer Golf Scholarship (N.C. State’s Lonnie Poole course, incidentally, is the only collegiate course designed by Palmer). Playing for legendary Deacons coach Jesse Haddock, Straub was a freshman on Wake Forest’s 1986 NCAA championship team and he won the ACC individual title as a senior. Straub went on to a 10-year career as a pro – mostly in Asia and on what’s now the Web.com Tour – and played in the U.S. Open in 1998.
“Coach Straub had an unbelievable playing career,” Davidson golfer Michael Blasey said. “Much more accomplished than any of us.”
Another A-10 medalist
Blasey, a junior from Potomac, Md., won the A-10’s individual title at the Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Fla., the second consecutive season a Davidson golfer had won the league’s medalist honors (joining Jack Lang in 2017).
Blasey struggled during qualifying for the tournament and only played after Straub made him a coach’s choice to participate.
“I was really more concerned with us getting the team championship,” Blasey said. “Then on my final hole, coach told me a bogey wouldn’t hurt us. That was pretty nice to hear.”
A deep team
Davidson figures to be a team to be reckoned with in the A-10 for at least the near future. Three of its top players – Blasey, Lang and Hoke Carlton (Myers Park High) – are juniors. And Alex Ross, who finished third in the league championship, was named the A-10’s most outstanding rookie in the tournament as well as the league’s rookie of the year.
49ers make it 14 straight
Purcell, a sophomore from Dublin, Ireland, led the 49ers with a 71.77 stroke average this season. Purcell’s career average of 72.34 ranks second all-time at Charlotte behind Corey Nagy’s 71.79, which is particularly impressive given the 49ers’ rich golf heritage. It’s the 14th consecutive season the 49ers will play in the NCAA tournament, either as a team or individually (Charlotte finished tied for third for the national team title in 2007 and tied for eighth a year later).
David Scott: @davidscott14